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Archive for January, 2010

The Barn at Gibbet Hill

January 27th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Style

Nestled among the rolling green hills in the charming little town of Groton MA, The Barn at Gibbet Hill offers couples a unique setting to make a lifelong commitment and to celebrate it with a heck of a party in a barn that is more than 100 years old!


The Barn is located on an expansive property that borders fields with actual cows in them. It is on this well landscaped property that couples who choose to hold their ceremony at Gibbet Hill pledge their love. Located just below the barn on the lawn, the wedding party make their way down a granite staircase and across the grass to a picturesque spot facing the hills. To the right is a small pond shaded by a large oak tree. And the animals are on hand to celebrate as well. At a recent wedding I photographed, the cows were watching the ceremony from the hill. As the couple enjoyed their first kiss as husband and wife, the cows mooed their approval to the delight of all gathered.


After the ceremony, the guests are ushered up to a large, covered deck off the barn where appetizers and cocktails are elegantly presented. When the weather is nice, the deck is open on three sides and offers beautiful views of the hills. When the weather changes, the deck can be enclosed to keep the revelers warm and dry.

When it’s time for the reception to start, everyone is invited into the barn itself. Inside the barn is the picture of rustic elegance. Chandeliers are hung between the old wood beams of the original barn. Steps lead up to a pair of balconies on either side of the room. A large dance floor ensures that all the guests can shake their money makers, and the expansive main floor provides room for the guest tables. Since everything is all in one room, it feels very cozy without being crowded. And the food is delicious!



One of the most interesting features of the property, however, requires a short hike. Up behind the cow fields is the ruins of an ancient castle. People with a large budget for their event can actually rent out the castle ruins for their reception, but anyone can use them for photos. And what a cool and romantic photo spot it is – with its large stone towers, walls overgrown with ivy, and roofless great hall, with the remains of huge stone fireplaces on either side. If you have ever wanted to be Cinderella on your wedding day, the ruins are the place to make that dream come true!



As a whole, The Barn at Gibbet Hill offers a uniquely New England location for an elegant, rural wedding celebration.


~Jamie Wexler



January 27th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Mingle

I’ve been thinking about collaboration lately. A big part of why I am involved with ShootStyle is I feel like by collaborating with other creative artists, I am able to be much greater than I am by myself.

Last week Stacey Doyle came up to shoot a Deanne and Thorton’s wedding in Northport, Maine with me. We’ve worked together on a few weddings already, and we both love it! At some point in the wedding day, I like to wander off with the couple and find a beautiful vista or quiet little cubbyhole that illustrate the feel of the wedding venue.

Last Sunday, I turned to Stacey in the middle of this photo session at Point Lookout and asked her what she had seen for interesting locations. She had seen this bench on the way on and had made a mental note of it as a good photo location.


Once in the space, I started thinking back to Michelle Turner’s talk at Mystic on posing. Michelle is doing a posing workshop at our next Shootstyle model shoot and so it has been on my mind. I tend more towards gentle suggestions to the couple (“Go hang out over there and just talk/kiss/hang out”) but in this one location I did some actual posing, based entirely on Michelle’s concepts, guiding the couple into place.

It was fun, it’s not a ground-breaking image, but it is a nice quiet moment, brought about by three photographers.



Why I Prefer Primes

January 20th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot

Everyone has preferences. Some like Nikon, others like Canon. Some choose Mac, others PC. Some love sweet, some spicy. Differences keep things interesting!

When shooting, my preference is to use prime lenses.

When I first started shooting, my camera was the Nikon FM2, black body, all manual bay-bee! Yeah, even the focusing was manual!  At that time, primes were easier and faster for me for me to adjust exposure and focus. If I had added zooms to the mix, I’m sure a hand cramp would have prevented me from pressing the shutter as that award-winning moment unfolded in front of me!

I like to keep things simple. When I over-complicate, I over-think. When I over-think, I forget to see.  When I stop feeling a scene, I start dissecting it.  For me, that just doesn’t work.

Primes are lighter than zooms, so it’s easy for me to carry around my tried and true arsenal. Typically I shoot with two lenses on two separate bodies: the 24mm 2.8 (though recently it’s been the 28 1.4 for Nikon) and the 85mm 1.8.  I typically switch to the 50 1.4 during the first dance to capture the available light and bokeh the background.  I also use the 105 macro while the bride is getting ready to capture the details of the dress, shoes, and makeup application and then again while capturing the details of the reception. Those lenses combined with a few flashes, pocket wizards and a light stand are all that I carry.

Zooms make me feel like I am all thumbs. Half the time when I’ve tried a zoom, I space out and it stays at the same focal length the whole day.

I am not nor will I ever be a highly technical person. Folks can sit around and start talking iso, frames per second, or crop factors and my mind will just start to wander. Of course I know it– knowing your gear is essential to creating the images you want. But it’s not something I find very interesting to talk about or delve into for long periods of time. I’d talk about the things + moments that inspire you + ignite that fire that drives you to create.

I know some out there may have all sorts of technical reasons why zooms are highly advanced and exceptional pieces of glass. I don’t doubt that for one minute.

What I do know is that they aren’t for me. Primes work for me. They are simple and they are light, and I value that over all else.

Use what you know best. Shoot with what feels right to you. There is no wrong or right– there is only getting the shot or missing it!




Do your own Hair and Makeup

January 13th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Style

Many photographers prefer that their brides have a professional make-up artist. Personally, I can barely tell the difference between professional make-up and the do-it-yourself variety. To me, pretty isn’t on the surface. Pretty is your smile with your soul poking through.

It’s not for everyone, but if you are a woman who wants to be surrounded by your friends and family on your wedding day, doing your own hair and/or make-up can be a bonding experience.

When you have an actual relationship with your make-up artist and hairstylist, the atmosphere in the room is noticeably different. There’s an intimate comfort level, with plenty of joking and goofiness. The make-up ritual becomes another opportunity to interact with your buds rather than an interruption of the wedding day. It is plain old more fun.

While I am happy to offer my opinion on your timeline before the big day, I have a strict policy of not running the show on your wedding day. It’s your wedding day; you are in control. As casual as I am, I’m still surprised at how little time some women think they need to get their make-up done and to get into their dresses.

I love walking into the “getting ready” room and seeing make-up bags strewn everywhere. It’s 45 minutes before the ceremony and the gals are still lounging in their robes. Reluctantly a bridesmaid will get the ball rolling. Make-up preparations begin and everyone suddenly realizes how little time they have left and how little they actually know about make-up or how they should wear their hair that day.

It is a little mini-drama at the beginning of your day.  Things run smoothly for the most part, but there can be a little nuttiness too. Best friends are rapidly delegated to and then fired from the task of applying make-up. Bridesmaids rummage in their own make-up bags to find a better shade of lipstick or brown mascara instead of black. Your sister finds herself temporarily banished because she brings one element of crazy too many to the table. Ultimately, your maid of honor, your sister, steps in to keep things calm and under control.

The bride wipes her makeup off and starts from scratch minutes before the ceremony. How people handle stress provides insight into their personalities. This insight helps me shoot the rest of the day. Are you nervous, loopy, or completely unphased? This information helps me convey an accurate picture of who you are and what your wedding day is really all about.

Brides going the do-it-yourself route for hair and make-up are usually fairly low-key and roll with whatever the day throws at them. Worry is quickly released in favor of a good time

I am often asked for my opinion on makeup, how much should be worn for photos, etc., etc. I always answer, “Wear your hair and make up so that you feel like you”. If you love to wear gobs and gobs of mascara, then go for it. Don’t let some make-up artist or photographer tell you something else is more “natural”. Don’t feel naked on your wedding day.

On the other hand, if you never wear much of anything but feel like you need a little something-something, then by all means put a little something on.  But when you look in the mirror, if you don’t recognize the person staring back, then wipe it off and start over.

Whether or not you hire make-up and hair professionals, if you look like yourself, you will act like yourself. Above all, that’s what I need from you to make gorgeous photos on your wedding day.



Mystic 5 re-cap: Documentary tips

January 11th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot

On January 4th, Michelle Turner + I got up in front of the crowd attending Mystic 5 in Mystic CT to give a talk about two different photographers approaching the same subject matter, in this case, weddings. We went over our two different styles + showcased numerous examples, including a wedding we shot together in Puerto Vallarta Mexico in December.

Below is a brief re-cap from my portion of the talk. You can see Michelle’s posing tips + techniques here.

Documenting an event isn’t just aiming your camera at a few choice moments and snapping away. There are certain approaches you should take to create a clean and inviting image, even in the midst of a fast moving scene.

As you learn to hone these tips, they will eventually become second nature, so that when a moment strikes, you will be prepared, not only to capture the action but also create a clutter free image that doesn’t compete for the viewers attention.

Below I have touched on a few of the ways in which you can approach a scene and certain rules you can incorporate while shooting.

Watch your backgrounds:

Pay close attention to what is going on behind and around your subject.
Are there other people or objects that will add or detract from the scene?
Choosing to include or exclude particular elements can make or break an image.

What’s going on in the four corners of your image? Is it clean or is it pulling your eye away from your subject?
The eye tends to stray to the brightest part of an image, so watch that you haven’t got a large glowing light or bright hot spot in one of the corners of your image. If so, the viewer will be distracted and leave the scene.

While shooting, constantly be aware of what is around your subject’s body. Watch for objects sticking out of some ones head or body. If you can use your subject to block out something distracting, do it!

As you are shooting, keep moving. As you are moving, keep shooting. Continuing to adjust while shooting will help bring you closer to a cleaner, more eye pleasing image.





Eye level:

Constantly vary the height of your camera while you’re shooting. There are a few reasons for this. Staying out of the line of sight of
your subject means they will be less likely to focus on you, helping to make you ‘invisible’. This can help you to create images without the subject being camera aware.

It also means that the subject may ‘forget’ you are present, allowing you to get in to the scene and create images from a very close intimate perspective. One major reason why some images are too cluttered is because the photographer has hung too far back. The closer you get to your subject the more the image will feel as though the person viewing is there.

Another reason to change up your eye level is most clients with cameras tend to shoot as seen, meaning they are creating average images with out any interest.

By lowering yourself below your subject or bringing your camera’s eye higher (either by standing on something or raising your camera over your head) you will create images that most clients are not accustomed to seeing. It can also help with your background (by lowering yourself below your subject and moving so the subject is in front of a clean space).
Most, if not all, images can be cropped. Remember about clean backgrounds and removing distracting elements from images? Well when you are shooting, things are happening fast.
When all else fails, get the shot!
You may end up with some clutter in the background or a composition that could be cleaned up by just cropping a bit of non-information out of the image.
Take a few of your images and play with them in PS. Hit the ‘Front Image’ button when in crop mode to retain your dimensions, and play with the cropping.See how much better your image could be if you crop out some of the distracting elements that may be exhausting your eye.


















Sometimes using objects or people within a scene can draw the eye into the action while simultaneously cropping out distracting elements. It’s
a great way to create interest within the frame. You can shoot through a crook of an arm, or a chair back.

Another method of framing is  to place a subject within a frame, like a bright window, in order to make that element stand out.

Layering is using multiple elements within the frame to draw the eye in and keep it moving within the scene.
It creates depth and is used to add to the story within the image. When done properly, it is not seen as clutter, but as a flowing part of the visual narrative.
If you have any tips, tricks or would like to elaborate on anything above, please feel free to use the comments section. And of course, any questions, by all means, ask away!
A large portion of my learning is due, in large part, to the caring + sharing of communities and workshops such as these:
Art of the moment workshop by Tyler Wirken + Brooks Whittington
Any questions on the above, please feel free to touch base. I would love to share my experiences!

Ciao + Love ~ Stacey D


Posing Couples in an Environmental Portrait

January 10th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot

For those of you who couldn’t make it to Mystic this year, here is an excerpt from my section on posing from my Mystic5 seminar with Stacey Doyle (who will be posting some excerpts of her own).  If you want to see the detailed/complete version with the step-by-step process outlined you can purchase the pdf or you can come to the ShootStyle Mini-Seminar and model shoot in March 28, 2010 in southern Maine and receive the pdf free of charge!  The Mini-Seminar is $40 and includes posing instruction followed by a model shoot- email me for more details or to sign up!

Excerpt from “Basic Elements for a Successful Environmental Portrait”:

Step Three: Body Position

Now it’s time to put the couple into the photograph- before you give them direction on what you want them to do in the photograph, you need to get them into the spot that you want them and in the appropriate position relative to one another.  This step is all about their connection with one another (not their emotional connection, but their physical connection relative to the camera).  There are several different positions that you can put them in- obviously your options will be limited by the choices you have made in step two and from their comfort level with you/the camera and with each other, but you should have at least several options from this list to draw from in every environment and situation.

1) Chest to Chest.  This position implies a certain level of intimacy and depending on the couple you may have to refine the pose a bit.  The important thing to remember is that this is a “joined” position- really make sure that they are touching.  If there is confusion, ask them to hug (and not the butt-out hug that you might give an acquaintance) and then refine the position from there.

2) Back to Chest.  This position is a safe one to start with if you have clients that are having difficulty warming up to the camera.  Either person can be in front- you do not necessarily need to put the shorter person in front as long as you choose an appropriate interaction from Step Four.  Some people will automatically go into this pose if you say “cheesy prom photo!”, but this position will become anything but that depending on the action/interaction that you end up choosing.

3) Sitting On or Between the Legs.  There are two options with this position- the chest to chest version and the back to chest version.  Obviously the chest to chest version is a more intimate position and can take more coaxing and explanation.  Be sure to refine this position if the legs of either person are too far apart or if there is too much slouching (or, for that matter, not enough slouching).  This position also works well on stairs.

4) Sitting Side by Side. Whether on chairs, on a wall, on stairs, or on the ground, this pose works well with almost all couples.  You may have to refine their positions and/or give them more direction so that they couple is more connected to one another since they can appear very detached from one another depending on their body language.  You may want to correct their sitting positions and connect their hands in some way.

5) Standing Side by Side. This is another simple position although you will want to be very aware of their body language and will want to refine the pose if they look too detached from one another.

6) In the Same Frame, Separated.  There are many ways that you could position them here- perhaps you want to put one person in each door frame or hanging out of different windows.  This can be a very fun pose that allows a ton of creativity, although it does limit your action/interaction options in step four.

7) One Sitting, One Standing.  This can be a very sexy, fashion-forward pose depending on how you connect the couple and the action/interaction that you choose in step four.

8 ) Lying Down.  Whether they are lying with their feet in the same direction or in opposite directions, this position can be a very intimate one to photograph.

Of course, there are plenty of other body positions and ways that you can connect your couple, but these are common positions that are extremely easy to explain and accomplish.  Now that you have positioned your couple, it’s time to move on to the piece that sets the mood of the photograph– Step Four: Action/Interaction.


A Shot with ShootStyle!

January 10th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Play

During our presentation at Mystic5, Stacey and I gave away “A Shot with ShootStyle” — three lucky winners walked away with a custom ShootStyle shot glass with an offer to have us fill it with the drink of their choice.  Here is a pic (taken with Andree’s trusty point and shoot camera) of lucky winners Richard Morris and Angela Chin:


ShootStyle Model Shoot at Mystic 5

January 9th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Mingle

Walter Van Dusen’s annual winter get-together held in Mystic, CT is one of the bestest venues for photographer education and mingling in New England. It’s an event that the ShootStyle team wouldn’t miss for the world. This year, we arrived a day early to practice with some models and fellow playmates Erin Chapman, Kate McElweeCarol Savage, and Jeannie Worley Turnock. Here’s a smattering of the photos we took:

































Tomato, Tomahto, Two Approaches to the Same Day

January 8th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Mingle


ShootStylers Stacey Doyle and Michelle Turner could not have more different styles of approaching and photographing a wedding day if they tried.

Stacey and Michelle showcased their differences at this year’s Mystic event, presented by Walter van Dusen. Mystic is an annual learning and networking event held in CT. We ShootStylers sat front row to support our girls and especially Stacey as she held her first presentation.

Tomato-02Tomato-04 Tomato-03

While Michelle likes to photograph the details and portraits, Stacey is more comfortable disappearing into the background and capturing raw emotions.

To prove how their differences can work, they photographed a wedding together last month in Mexico. These 2 have clearly defined styles that their clients specifically hire them for. Throw them both together onto the same event and you get an interesting mishmash of editorial and photojournalistic styles.

Tomato-09 Tomato-07 Tomato-06

I would best describe these girls as ying and yang. Whether it’s natural light or external lighting, posing or loose suggestion, there’s no wrong way to approach a wedding so long as your client is educated about what they are to expect. Showcasing a particular style in your marketing and NOT showing what you don’t like to/want to shoot is the only way to go.


Since I personally love shooting details AND love being a wallflower, I fall somewhere in between these girls’ styles.

While I can’t sympathize with Stacey when she says details leave her “cold inside”,  I appreciate her need to not be seen and her love of the unscripted moment. Though I side with Michelle in her use of mostly natural light, her love of those details, and her use of Photoshop and textures to enhance images, I find that I’d rather skip wedding portraits all together.

Stay tuned for Michelle and Stacey to show and tell their sides of the story soon!




ShootStyle Maine – Backwoods Edition

January 2nd, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Mingle

The ShootStylers went to Western Maine in November to mingle with some Maine photographers. Carol Savage, Samantha Warren and Amy Salerno shot with us. We met up with local models Elizabeth Baumhoff, Erica Carson and Joanna Reese. We duded them up as backwoods Maine beauties and then trundled up to Grafton Notch State Park and worked in the Screw Augers Falls and Moose Caves areas.


The entire outdoor shoot lasted a mere hour and a half, as the shortened November day got the best of us.

Hair and makeup by Ambiance Spa in South Paris.

































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